History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2011: Q.6 (b)
(b) “Whoever says Industrial Revolution, says cotton.” Comment.
British historian Eric Hobsbawm characterized English industrial history: “Whoever says Industrial Revolution says cotton.”
Rapid industrialization transformed the lives of English men and women after 1750, and changes in cotton textiles were at the heart of this process and Industrial Revolution started chiefly from the textile industry.
Textile Industry had following advantages
(1) Textile techniques were already at such point of development that only a few minor alterations had to be effected to render both spinning and weaving semi-mechanised and semi-automatic.
(2) It was relatively free to use techniques to reduce the cost of production, for the cotton textile trade was not subject to guild regulation. The monopolistic guilds never existed in cotton because it was a new industry.
(3) There was more focus on textile manufacturing because the manufacture and export of various cloths were vital to the English economy in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Textile production before Industrial Revolution
Before the Industrial Revolution, textiles were produced under the putting-out system, in which merchant clothiers had their work done in the homes of artisans or farming families. Production was limited by reliance on the spinning wheel and the hand loom; increases in output required more hand workers at each stage.
Changes in textile production due to innovation
Invention dramatically changed the nature of textile work.
In Weaving Field: The flying shuttle, patented by John Kay in 1733, increased the output of each weaver and led to increased demand for yarn. This prompted efforts by others to mechanize the spinning of yarn.
In Spinning Field: The first advance came in 1767, when James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, allowing one spinner to produce several yarns at a time.
In Mechanical Power: In 1769, Richard Arkwright patented the water frame, a spinning machine that produced a coarse, twisted yarn and could be powered by water. Coupled with the carding machine, the Arkwright spinning frame ushered in the modern factory. (It could not work in small places and so it was parent of the factory system)
The first textile mills, needing waterpower to drive their machinery, were built on fast-moving streams in rural England.
After the 1780s, with the application of steam power, mills also grew up in urban centers.
Initially, English mills relied on pauper labor, and for a considerable period mill owners had difficulty recruiting workers. Once in the mills, though, workers felt threatened by the introduction of new machinery, and periodically resisted such moves by destroying power looms and setting fire to new factories. Nevertheless, the textile industry expanded rapidly, increasing production fifty-fold between 1780 and 1840.
The English Industrial Revolution had important consequences for Americans. It spurred cultivation of cotton in the South to meet expanding English demand for the fibre. The growth and profits of English textiles also caught the imagination of American merchants, the more far sighted of whom sought to manufacture cloth and not simply market English imports. Hence, cotton gave impetus to the Industrialisation in the other parts of the world also.